In October of last year, at my first meeting as a freshly minted IBMer, I met a young colleague in the Life Science marketing department. Gregarious, and disarmingly direct, she is the youngest person on our Life Science team, and undeniably one of the most ambitious. Adventurous, intelligent, charged with seemingly boundless energy, I liked her right away.
We soon became friends. At every meeting, we have gotten together to share a little dirt, a few drinks, and, while in New Orleans last month, a few late nights on dance floors in Bourbon Street.
She lives in Delray Beach, Florida - only 45 minutes from Miami and it's famous South Beach. A city I have been anxious to visit since a fourteen-year old kid with my name watched Crocket and Tubbs zooming through streets of neon to brooding music from Phil Collins.
The best new benefit of my life as an IBM salesman: frequent flyer miles! And I got a load of them. So two weeks ago I cashed in some of those hard earned miles and met her on a warm and typically muggy Friday night at Miami International Airport.
Florida was instantly nostalgic. My grandfather lives there, and during my childhood we would make regular summer visits to the state. The smell of oleanders, the sound of the palms in the wind, the crunch of St. Augustine grass beneath my feet, it all opened dusty mental footlockers of long forgotten childhood memories. Fishing with my father, playing on the porch of my Grandfather's house, Disney World.
But I wasn't in Florida for Mickey Mouse. Disney and their family friendly fun wasn't gonna cut it. I had been working my ass off for weeks. My girlfriend had split two months earlier, I hadn't been climbing enough, and I hardly saw my friends anymore.
I needed a shot of social adrenaline. I was looking for South Beach during Spring Break. Debauchery Land was more my speed. I wanted sordid and scandalous. I wanted drinks of rum, long nights of sweat and music, and as little clothing as possible - day or night.
So my first day there I promptly went to the IBM office in West Palm and worked all afternoon.
Sigh. I can't help it.
But that night we lit out of West Palm and headed straight for Miami.
We had reserved a room at The Chelsea, a little hotel in South Beach. Small, old, art deco. Very trendy, very Miami. The building was raucous from loud music and intoxicated voices emanating from various rooms on all three of its floors.
We had reserved a room with two double beds. The young and seemingly overwhelmed desk manager informed us no doubles were available, but he would be happy to put us in a room with a king size bed. What the hell, right? I was looking for debauchery.
So he handed us our little plastic electronic key. . The hotel's tiny elevator was broken so we pulled our luggage up to the second floor and down the creaky wooden floor to our room at the end of the hall. Our key didn't work. The light turned green - the lock stayed tight. I plodded back downstairs. He coded my key again. Up I went and again our door remained locked. Down again for another recode and another attempt and the same result. He tried a different room. Up to the third floor this time. And back down seconds later, useless key in hand. So he went to get the hard key for the lock. It was missing. Not a good thing to tell a guest that the master key for his room was gone. Still, we had a room - just no way to get into it short of an ax or a well placed kick. Not exactly the Biltmore here.
We gave up and went to dinner - a great Thai place next door. Several hours later we returned to a smiling desk manager who assured us the key would work this time (did he remove the lock all together?). We recovered our luggage from the basement (panicking the poor bellboy who thought someone stole it while he was flirting with the maid), and opened the door to our room supposedly complete with "king size" bed.
If by "king" you really mean "double". Now things were getting really interesting. Let's just say it was going to be cozy.
How cozy? None of your business. I'm a gentleman. Or so it's been said.
All things considered, I liked the room. Floors of bowed hardwood, bathroom of dark tile, and no shower stall - just a drain in the floor. Basically, a big wet playroom. The room held modern furniture, white, down-filled linens on the tiny bed, and a decorative vase full of bamboo. We were staying in an extraordinarily well decorated dive.
We left to explore our surroundings. South Beach was filled with cars piloted by east-coast boys driving in slow circles around the town, heads out the windows, checking out the eye candy parading down the sidewalk. Girls with big hair and small bathing suits ambled down past countless restaurants and bars.
We eventually ended up at a nightclub a few blocks from the infamous home of Gianni Versace. But the club wasn't that hot. Twenty bucks to get in, ten bucks for each watery drink, and a less than beautiful, less than energetic crowd that clearly wasn't worth the cover charge. But I was in Miami to have fun. Sometimes you need to make your own energy, and I love to dance. We danced for an hour or so, but the music was pretty tame house. I wanted a good groove. Eventually I found it with DJ Spiller's Groovejet (a great house anthem), and Miami found me in my typical night club position: On top of the speaker, shirt unbuttoned, sweating, shaking, dancing. Someone gave me a couple light sticks, and I got into a frenetic neon light show. But the groove soon ended, and we retreated back into the warm Florida night.
Our two days in South Beach were unfortunately under the cover of cloudy skies. We never made it into the water, but did spend two afternoons planted in lounge chairs in Miami's famous white sand. When we weren't planted in the sand, we were planted at tables on the boardwalk, sipping over-priced and underwhelming concoctions of vodka or rum, and amusedly watching the endless parade of intoxicated flesh.
Let me tell you something about the female participants of this parade: They don't compare to SoCal. Sorry, Miami, but the South Beach ladies in the drop-top Jags don't hold a candle to the wonderfully tan, taught and surgically enhanced female flesh of Los Angeles or the earthy, sunshine-blond surfer girls of San Diego. Sure, lots of roller-blading hotties skated by our table, and South Beach is bikini-top optional. But SoCal remains in a league of it's own. Hell, SoCal is the center of the world's fitness, entertainment, and pornography industries. It's a tough combo to beat if you like pretty girls.
But the men, the men of Miami are another story. The men of Miami are gorgeous. Walking into South Beach is like walking into the pages of a Men's Health magazine. Page after page of tan, chiseled beefcake. Perfectly groomed hair despite the muggy air. Abs and asses molded from Michelangelo's template. Latin lust machines, lean and muscular, strutting smoothly down the sidewalk. All of them totally devoid of any visible body hair.
And all of them were gay - ridiculously, flamboyantly, openly and thankfully
South Beach is clearly THE swinging scene for the single, attractive homosexual male. Buddy, if that's your bag, it ain't gonna get any better than South Beach.
And if like me, that's not your bag, it still doesn't get any better. How so?
Permit me to explain. There are carloads of single, attractive and scantily clad women in South Beach. And most of the men they are watching are definitely not watching them. An attractive, single, heterosexual male in South Beach is a rare and very desirable creature. South Beach has lots of female shoppers looking for heterosexual men (who aren't 45 and sporting Speedos and a bad set of hair transplants). And they have a terribly reduced inventory to choose from. I'd never seen anything like it.
Now enter The Mighty Jimbo with those famous abs, a dangerously shaved noggin, some slick dance floor moves and a big Italian grin. I had lots of attention. I really gotta go back with my brother in tow. We could definitely do some damage.
My weekend ended too soon. Although I didn't have the tan I'd hoped for, Miami was a kick, and my friend was an amazing host. Late Monday night I was back in seat 9F (I couldn't get an upgrade) en route to New York's La Guardia airport. Wednesday morning I was on my way to San Diego, and Thursday I found myself in San Francisco. Four cities and four thousand miles in four days. All on about four hours of sleep.
By Friday I was ready for another vacation.